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Jan 2, 2005, 5:11 PM

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Christmas and New Yearīs in REAL Mexico

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What a wonderful rich culture! Having been invited to spend Noche Buena with my friendīs family in Leon, Guanajuato, I arrived amid all the hustle and bustle of last minute arrangements. Carload after carload of extended family members finally arrived, dressed to the 9īs, babies, toddlers and adolescents adorned in the lastest attire. We all crowded around the huge nativity scene, prominantly displayed in the small living room. The oldest brother, Antonio, hoping for recovery from recently discovered bone cancer through kimo then marrow transplants and the 20 year old neice, newly engaged, were selected to rock baby Jesus this year. Everyone sang on and on and on, a special prayer song. I was moved to tears. We were invited to squeeze in at the table that was rented for the occasion, while others held their plates on their knees. Pierna Renello...Stuffed ...weīll call it... Rump Roast, stuffed and cooked to savoury tenderness then sliced and served with itīs own sauce. Of course on the side was the everpresent refried beans and traditional Spanish rice. After eating until we could eat no more, the family began to open their presents, one for each, in relay. Loud music and laughter ensued so that we couldnīt hear anything. The kids were running around, teasing, playing and girating to the Salsa, Banda and Cumbia beats. I swear they learn how to dance while still in their mothersī bellies! Looking around the room filled with smiles,joking and intense emotion, I realized that this was a far-cry from my Anglo upbringings in Canada. As if the evening was not complete enough, D.Jīs arrived and set up huge speakers on the sidewalk. The women, wrapped themselves and babies in warm, handmade sarapes and took to the street with the youngsters.EVERYONE was dancing! It was an explosion of rythmic sounds and movements, and fireworks being thrown in every direction around us. The dancing and laughter continued until after 4:30am. Children caught catnaps when they were fatigued. Amusing as the festival may have been, a bed in a corner room assigned to me, beckoned just after 1:30am., just as well, those who stayed up the lastest had to sleep on the cement floors! In the morning I awoke to find 6 other people, sound asleep on mattresses and the floor, in the tiny bedroom with me.
Piping hot Menudo was bowled out to each as we arose.
Following a leisurely trail from Salamanca south, past the lake at Yuriria and on to Salvatierra, I rejoined my friends at their home in Acamboro. Saturday night! Their discoteque had to be opened and their show must go on. They barely caught their breath before starting it all over again until 4 am!
After resting a day, I continued on to Maravatio, Michoacan to visit many dear friends there. The following morning, having discovered that an excursion of my friends,videographers, were going up to Las Palomas to film the Monarchs, nothing would do but I had to go too. There are 4 colonies on that mountain this year, the biggest is in the same location as last year-under the Telmex tower. The numbers are down by about 50% this year but thatīs better than anticipated following the 95% kill in the major sanctuaries last winter.The Monarch population in Palomas had an amazing 50% survival rate. Thank goodness theyīve been able to protect the forest from the scrupulous rich robber barons! far.
New Yearīs Eve and back to Acamboro to shop and chop for the midnight dinner.The shops and stands were filled with special colours of underpants including frillies and the dental floss type. We exchanged gifts of underpants-yellow for money, red for romance, green for health and white for peace and tranquility.Stacking on the layers, just to cover all bases, we slicked ourselves up to walk to hear the church mass. At around 10:30 pm the streets filled with families pressed and polished in their Sunday best as they made their way to the main Cathedral for mass. The air rang with the summoning bells. The Three Wise Guys were outside with a desert backdrop-2005, ready to pose for "uno foto conmemorativo", for a nominal fee. We off-loaded the hot stuffed Turkey, paper plates, Macaroni/Ham salad, Hot Fruit Punch to the table set up and decorated in the doorway. All the families were on their stoops, fires blazing on the sidewalks and in the street. Music al "Ranchero" pumped out old familiar tunes with everyone singing along. Punch or Tequila drinks were handed around and in turn we gave thanks for 2004 and toasted the coming year. At three minutes to midnight, one by one we downed our designated 12 grapes held in our hands.With each, a silent wish for each month of the new year. Hugs and kisses all around then the excitement REALLY began! We jumped out the front door into the street, for luck ...hopefully no cars We madly swept imaginary dust out to the street. We jumped again holding a suitcase- this time signifying travel. Fireworks were exploded by the handfuls and when the entrance had sufficiently filled with smoke, we sat down to a heaping plate of Turkey, no mashed potatoes or gravy, not a spot of cranberry sauce to be had,there was however a 4 alarm chili mayonnais. There wasnīt even a fork! A large loaf of Bimbo soft white bprocessed bread was handed to each of us to be used instead of tortillas to pick up our food, because it was such a special occasion! A scarecrow was burned in a chair at the door to represent 2004 and an old bed was ceremoniously smashed apart to become the bonfire. Ear-splitting music poured into the streets, anyone foolish enough to sit was whisked up to dance. Passersby crowded in for a dance before they continued on their way. Great Holiday. A good time was had by all. I love this country!
Feliz Navidad y Prospero Aņo Nuevo a todos...and to all a goodnight!
Shelley Whittall, the true northerner, Queretaro, Qro

(This post was edited by Conchita Nortena on Jan 2, 2005, 5:14 PM)

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